It has now been confirmed that Nigerian President, Bola Tinubu presented a forged degree certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) when he filed his paperwork to lead the country in June last year.
This is based on the latest testimony of the institution which has now opened a new, but potentially fatal front in the ongoing battle to oust the Nigerian leader for his documented misdeeds from years back.
Registrar of the Chicago State University (CSU) Caleb Westberg, said Tinubu’s certificate, dated June 22, 1979, and tendered to INEC on June 17, 2022, was not issued by the school and its administrators could, therefore, not be able to authenticate its source.
According to Westberg, since November 2020, during the deposition that lasted about 5.5 hours, Tinubu did not apply for a replacement certificate, nor was he ever issued one.
It would be recalled that Atiku Abubakar, Tinubu’s main opponent, approached the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago to ascertain the authenticity or otherwise of the document.
Federal district judge Nancy Maldonado granted a final order for CSU administrators to turn over all documents relating to Tinubu to the school, and also sit down for deposition by an adversarial team of lawyers deployed by Atiku.
Sensing the intractable consequences of the proceeding, Tinubu vigorously fought to thwart its successful outcome, with his lawyers warning the judge in a September 21 hearing that releasing the documents with deposition would inevitably inflict severe, irreparable harm against the Nigerian president.
On it’s part, the CSU had long insisted that Tinubu was its student, entering in 1977 and graduating in 1979, but its inability to authenticate the certificate the Nigerian president submitted would ripple through Nigeria’s over 200 million population for the foreseeable future.
In 1999, Tinubu falsely ran for Governor of Lagos with the forged certificate. He however, managed to escape being held accountable for the breach because he had been elected before it was discovered, and he did not submit a certificate backing his claim, only an affidavit that was later found to be fiction, and the Nigerian Supreme Court said he could not be charged with crimes as a serving governor.
He subsequently stopped claiming attendance at the University of Chicago, holding on instead to a claim that he attended Chicago State University, one of Illinois State University campuses traditionally popular among black people.
While a spokesman for the president was not immediately available for reaction to the development on Tuesday night, the president’s allies have suggested publicly that the evidence was inconsequential and propagated the Supreme Court’s readiness to throw it out.
On Monday evening, shortly after the school dumped records into the electronic filing portal used by lawyers to all parties, Tinubu’s team circulated a misrepresented account of the documents, successfully misleading some media outlets to run a claim that the school had authenticated Mr Tinubu’s certificate.
They also said a replacement was issued to Tinubu on June 27, 1997, in what seemed to be a reference to the certificate the school had submitted following a 2022 subpoena obtained from a state court by Nigerian lawyer Mike Enahoro-Ebah.
Enahoro-Ebah received the certificate, dated June 27, 1979, alongside all academic records of Mr Tinubu from CSU in August 2022. But the certificate was signed by Elnora Daniel and Niva Lubin, who were not at the school in 1979 and carried June 27, 1979, as its issuance date.
After comparing the certificate he was given by the CSU to the certificate Tinubu submitted to INEC, dated June 22, 1979, Enahoro-Ebah promptly returned to Nigeria with the records and filed a criminal complaint against Tinubu for forgery. But the case was stalled in an Abuja court for months before the election, and has still not been heard.
Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) used the conflicting records to approach the federal court in Chicago for a subpoena as part of his ongoing case against Tinubu in Nigeria, culminating in Tuesday’s deposition that established that Tinubu forged his certificate in violation of the Constitution.
Section 137 (1)(j) of the Nigerian Constitution (amended in 2010) specifically states that no one would be legitimately elected president of Nigeria if the person “has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
The records obtained from the school, the deposition and other material collected through the US legal system are now being prepared for onward submission to the Nigeria Supreme Court, where a final decision on the presidential election challenge would be made on or before December 6, 2023.